Commemoration of the Primate in the Provinces
Known As Neae Chorae in Greece.
An Ecclesiological and Canonical Issue

by Metropolitan Panteleimon Rodopoulos

In recent years there has been evidence of confusion within certain Orthodox communities, and even in some local Churches, over the commemoration, in the Divine Liturgy and, by extension in the other Holy Services, of the name of the local bishop, as well as the names of the first bishop in an eparchy, i. e. the metropolitan, the first in a Diocese, i. e. the Patriarch or the primate of an autocephalous Church. This confusion is particularly noticeable as regards the number of hierarchs to be commemorated. Should one, two or more hierarchs be commemorated during the Divine Liturgy and in the Diptychs[1]? We shall be concerned with this particular subject below, but it should be stressed at the outset that commemoration is not a matter of courtesy and politeness towards specific persons, but rather a liturgical and canonical matter, and therefore, also ecclesiological.

According to the “Byzantine” liturgical tradition, which “includes” all the basic elements of the Antiochean liturgical tradition and which, centuries before, had become dominant everywhere in the East, as had that of Rome in the West[2], the bishop of the local church is commemorated during the Divine Liturgy by the serving priests and deacons at the places appointed. Should the bishop himself be serving, he commemorates the primate of the eparchy, the metropolitan, in the Diptycha, while the metropolitan commemorates the primate of the Diocese, the patriarch[3]. An archbishop who is not the primate of an autocephalous Church, but who is autocephalous in respect of the metropolitan/primate of the eparchy, commemorates only the patriarch on whom he is directly dependent, without interpolating the name of the metropolitan[4].

During the Divine Liturgy, the name of the local prelate is commemorated aloud by the deacon during the Litany of Peace at the beginning of the Divine Liturgy and at the Litany of Fervent Supplication after the Readings, before the Divine Eucharist, when the Catechumens are still present with the Faithful.

After the consecration of the Divine Gifts, the priest officiating commemorates the local bishop in whose name he is conducting the Divine Liturgy and under whom he remains canonically, as does the whole of the Eucharistic Assembly. Should the bishop himself be at the head of the Eucharistic Assembly, he commemorates at this point the primate of the eparchy, the metropolitan – “First of all, remember, Lord, our Archbishop, NN., and grant that he …” – with whom he is in sacramental and therefore canonical communion and under whose chairmanship he serves.

If the metropolitan is conducting the Divine Liturgy, he commemorates the primate of the Diocese, the patriarch or the head of the autocephalous Church he belongs to. In other words, the primate with whom he is in sacramental and therefore canonical communion and under whose chairmanship he serves.

If a patriarch or the president of an autocephalous Church is conducting the Divine Liturgy, he commemorates every bishopric of the Orthodox, while, thereafter, the deacon “facing the door”, recites the Diptycha. In other words, he commemorates the chief prelates, in order of seniority of the Churches, i. e. the patriarchs and heads of autocephalous Churches with whom the celebrant patriarch or head of Church is in sacramental and canonical communion. In this way, the canonicity of the particular eucharistic assembly is declared and confirmed, as is the canonicity of the patriarchs and primate-archbishops commemorated and also the catholicity of the assembly.

In the Litany of Peace and the Litany of Fervent Supplication, commemoration of the bishop by the deacon is a prayer and supplication of the local church not only on behalf of the bishop, but for peace from on high for the local church, for the peace of the whole world, for the clergy and the people, for sovereigns and for those in authority in general, for the city, the parish or the monastery where the Divine Liturgy is being celebrated, for favourable weather, an abundance of the fruits of the earth, for the departed, for those who bring offerings to the church, who labour and sing in it and for the people of the eucharistic community in general. In this way, the unity of the whole Church, of the dead and the living, is expressed in prayer and supplication and in time and place.

After the consecration of the gifts, the commemoration of the bishop, the metropolitan or the patriarch, and the commemoration of all the heads of Churches in the Diptycha is certainly a prayer and supplication, but it also has a pronounced canonical dimension within it. That is, as was mentioned above, it constitutes a public confirmation of the canonicity and catholicity of the particular Eucharistic assembly, which is in communion with the canonical bishop or the canonical metropolitan, or the canonical patriarch or the canonical primate of an autocephalous Church or with all the canonical heads of the local churches, if the server at the assembly is the head of an autocephalous local church.

According to Orthodox ecclesiology, and its canonical teaching, the serving priest and deacon commemorate one bishop, their own prelate, under whom they serve. It is not possible that there should be one or more bishops in the same city as heads of the Eucharistic assembly “let there not be two bishops in the city”[5]. The bishops of an eparchy likewise commemorate one primate, the metropolitan, the president of the provincial synod. Similarly, the metropolitans commemorate one person, the primate of the Diocese to which they belong, a patriarch or head of an autocephalous Church. It is not possible that there should be two primates in the geographical canonical jurisdiction of a patriarch or autocephalous Church and that both should be commemorated. This would be ecclesiologically erroneous and uncanonical.

“What has been ordained for presbyters and bishops and metropolitans is to a much greater extent befitting to patriarchs. So if any presbyter, bishop or metropolitan dare to secede from communion with his own patriarch and does not mention the latter’s name at the place appointed and ordained in the divine mystagogy … the holy synod has declared him to be utterly alienated from any priestly function …”[6].

Recently the issue has been raised by some in Greece of the commemoration of two primates in the eparchies of the so-called Neae Chorae[7], i. e. the Archbishop of Constantinople/New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch to whose sovereign, canonical jurisdiction they belong, and the Archbishop of Athens, the president of the Holy Synod of the autocephalous Church of Greece, to which the administration of these has been assigned by the Ecumenical Patriarch, “in custodianship” and “in certain matters”.         

As was mentioned above, the sacred canons and the Orthodox canonical ordinances envisage only one “primate” in each metropolitan or patriarchal eparchy[8]. Any commemoration of a second “primate” by the hierarchs of the patriarchal eparchy of the Neae Chorae, in this case of the Archbishop of Athens, would be uncanonical and would also, by extension, constitute a direct contravention of the sacred canons that talk about “intrusion” into another eparchy[9], about “activities beyond the borders”[10] and about two bishops in one and the same eparchy[11].

The administration of the eparchies of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in the Neae Chorae was regulated by the Patriarchal and Synodical Act of 1928[12], which states that “the supreme canonical right of the Most Holy Ecumenical Throne being retained, the administration in each of these eparchies in certain matters shall in future be conducted under the custodianship … of the Church of Greece, graciously accepted, and also with the consent and ratification of the honourable Greek State…”.

As regards the commemoration of the name of the Ecumenical Patriarch, the relevant general term in the Patriarchal and Synodical Act of 1928 states, literally, the following: “The metropolitans of the Ecumenical Throne in Greece” (that is, those of the Neae Chorae), “commemorate the name of the Ecumenical Patriarch …” and no-one else.

Canonicity aside, as regards the issue of commemorating the primate in the eparchies of the lands called the Neae Chorae, the Patriarchal and Synodical Act of 1928 is an International Agreement between the Ecumenical Patriarch on the one hand and the Government of Greece on the other, with the consent of the autocephalous Church of Greece. In addition, the contents of the Patriarchal and Synodical Act of 1928, are ratified by the Constitution of Greece (art. 3, § 1) and in Greek state law (Law 3615/1928, Codified Law 5438/1932 and the Constitutional Charter of the Church of Greece, Law 590/1977).

It follows, then, that any intervention relating to the commemoration of the only “primate” in the eparchies of the Neae Chorae, i. e. of the Ecumenical Patriarch, or any alteration of the legislation enacted through the Patriarchal and Synodical Act of 1928, would be an non-canonical action and would also be unconstitutional and illegal from the point of view of Greek state legislation.


[1]. This has been sporadically noted in Greece, in the main, but also officially in Russia. For the latter, see Rodopoulos, Panteleimon, The Constitutional Charter Concerning the Administration of the Russian Church, Thessaloniki 1990 (in Greek; pub. by Bros, Kyriakidis).

[2]. In his replies to canonical questions put to him by MARK, Patriarch of Alexandria and to a query on the subject of the liturgies read in places belonging to Alexandria and Jerusalem, VALSAMON, Theodoros, Patriarch of Antioch (end 12th century), had this to recommend:… “all the churches of God should follow the custom of New Rome, i. e. Constantinople and celebrate the liturgy according to the tradition of the great teachers and luminaries of piety, Saint John Chrysostom and Saint Basil.” PG 138, 953. RODOPOULOS, Panteleimon, The Consecration of the Gifts of the Divine Eucharist. Λειτουργικά Βλατάδων, Thessaloniki 2000, p. 151. The oldest extant manuscript containing the liturgies of Saints BASIL the Great and John CHRYSOSTOM is the Barberini Codex (8 or 9th century), which is preserved in the Vatican Library. On the editions of the two liturgies and the manuscripts in which they are contained, see BRIGHTMAN, Frank E., Liturgies Eastern and Western I, Oxford 1896.

[3]. Canons 12, 13, 14 and 15 of the 1st/2nd Synod of Constantinople. See interpretations of these canons by ZONARAS, VALSAMON and ARISTENOS. Cfr. indirect testimony concerning this in canons: 31 of the Apostolic Canons, 18 of the 4th Ecumenical Synod, 31 and 34 of the Quinisext Ecumenical Synod, 5 of the Synod in Antioch, 6 of the Synod in Gangra, 11 and 62 of the Synod in Carthage.

[4]. “It has been ordained … by the holy Fathers that those Dioceses which have many cities governed by bishops shall be conducted by metropolitans, whom the canons name as primates, while those which do not have many cities in them governed by bishops, shall have archbishops as their chief hierarch.” Commentary by VALSAMON in: ΔΕΛΙΚΑΝΗΣ Καλλίνικος, Σωζόμενα Επίσημα Εκκλησιαστικά Έγγραφα εκ του Πατριαρχικού Αρχειοφυλακείου, Vol. II, Constantinople 1904, p. 372, Methodios III and the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Against the Innovations of Ananias of Sinai (1688), op. cit.

[5]. Canon 8 of the 1st Ecumenical Synod.

[6]. Canon 15 of the lst/2nd Synod of Constantinople; cfr. also, canons 13 and 14 of the same synod and see a host of canonical ordinances, in: Acta et Diplomata Graeca Mediaevi Sacra et Profana, ed. MIKLOSICH, Franz / MULLER, John, 6 vol., Vienna 1860-1890; DELIKANIS, Kallinikos, Formal Documents etc from Patriarchal Archives (in Greek) lI and III; GEDEON, Manuel, Canonical Ordinances (in Greek); RHALLES / POTLES and V; ZAKYNTHENOS, Dionysios, Unpublished Patriarchal Documents from the Years of Turkish Rule (1598-1798), pub. from the Paris Codices, in: Ελληνικά ΙΙ-VI and passim, Athens 1929-1933.

[7]. The eparchies of the Neae Chorae are the metropoles which were liberated from Ottoman domination after the Balkan Wars (1912-1913), to wit those of Epiros, (excluding Arta) Ellasson in Thessaly, Macedonia, Western Thrace and the islands of the Eastern Aegean.

[8]. Canon 34 of the Apostolic Canons; canons 23, 85 and 98 of the Synod of Carthage; canons 9, 16, 18 and 19 of the Synod of Antioch and elsewhere.

[9]. Canon 2 of the 2nd Ecumenical Synod, 14 of the Apostolic Canons and others.

[10]. Canon 5 of the 4 nd Ecumenical Synod and 35 of the Apostolic Canons.

[11]. Canon 8 of the 1 nd Ecumenical Synod.

[12]. In: RODOPOULOS, Panteleimon, Epitome of Canon Law, Thessaloniki 1998, 220-223 (in Greek).